Hyundai’s new-generation i30 has already been a huge success but the addition of a first ever hot hatch to the line-up takes things to a whole new level.
There was a time, back in the Seventies, when 150mph+ top speeds and six-second sprints to 60mph were supercar stats. How times change. Back in the Seventies, the Hyundai Motor Company was still very new and only just preparing to launch its first ‘proper’ model, the Pony. Four decades on, Hyundai’s first hot hatch, the i30 N, has hit the streets and, boy, was it worth the wait. That single capital letter may not mean much to you now but, trust us, it’s going to. N is “Born in Namyang, honed at the Nürburgring (or, more appropriately still, perhaps Nordschleife?). Nicknamed the ‘Green Hell’, the infamous old F1 circuit has become the world’s favourite test track and the place where Hyundai’s debutant performance model has been honed, relentlessly.
Choose the right settings and the resultant popping and crackle is utterly irresistible ”
And it shows. Hyundai has been getting serious about performance for some time now. The racing version of the i30 N, in the hands of the legendary Gabriele Tarquini, currently leads the 2018 World Touring Car Cup. In the World Rally Championship, Belgium’s Thierry Neuville leads the chase for that title in a Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC. This is top-level motorsport, a place where it’s impossible to hide – the place manufacturers have always gone when they’ve needed to show the world what they’re capable of. When performance is a part of a car’s DNA, it shines through in every model, and this is true of the i30 range (see opposite). The handling characteristics of every i30 have a genuinely sporty feel, for example, but the i30 N is a true product of Hyundai’s recent racing success.
But it takes more than impressive performance to make a hot hatch. Before you even turn the key, a contender in this sector has to look good, too. The i30 N does. Lower than the standard five-door hatch, it has a squat, purposeful presence – especially from a rear-three-quarter angle – and pulls off that magic hot hatch mix of ‘extrovert understatement’ perfectly: great wheels, nice detailing, strong colours.
So, it’s fast, and it’s handsome. It also has manners. Arguably, the i30 N’s handling is its true ace card.
There are two versions of the car: the i30 N (247bhp) and the i30 N Performance (271bhp), and while there is virtually nothing to choose between them in terms of top speed and acceleration, the more powerful version comes with an electronically controlled differential. It makes a difference overall. Both cars provide a full range of driving modes, including adjustable suspension, throttle response and even stability control settings. It all helps take the Performance to another level of driving pleasure. In fact, you can turn the stability control off completely, and if you think that sounds familiar, you’d be right.
Much of this customisation control is operated via the steering-wheel-mounted ‘N’ button, yet another clue to the provenance of this first ever Hyundai hot hatch. Features such as switchable traction control and a ‘motorsport mode’ are hallmarks of Albert Biermann, formerly an engineering guru at BMW M, and his influence continues here.
So, apart from the performance, the looks and the handling, the i30 N scores big in two more ways. What is often missing from a hot hatch – indeed, is often missing from many more powerful, more expensive performance cars – is noise. Proper, visceral sound from the exhaust. Not so with the i30 N. Choose the right combination of settings via that magic ‘N’ button, and the resultant popping and crackle on both upchange and rev-matched overrun is utterly irresistible. Nothing in this class, at this price point, comes close. And then there’s the Hyundai warranty. The Korean firm is the only manufacturer to offer a full five-year guarantee with unlimited mileage on every model it makes, and the i30 N is no exception. Well, almost. There is actually a major exception to Hyundai’s hot hatch warranty. This is peace of mind with a difference, because the i30 N warranty also covers the car for use on track days.
Now if that isn’t manufacturer confidence, we don’t know what is. And given just how good the i30 N is, this part of the package could be what makes this new Hyundai properly famous.